Going to a restaurant is usually enjoyable. But for parents who have children with learning difficulties such as autism, the occasion can often turn out to be stressful and embarrassing.
That’s why a family-owned restaurant in the Midlands is introducing a special ‘quality time’ dining experience for those with learning difficulties so that they can appreciate the pleasure of eating out in a safe environment.
Andrew Iredale, co-owner of Seasons Restaurant in Warwick Street, Leamington Spa, whose own son Josh, seven, suffers from autism, said: “Many families who have children suffering from learning difficulties are put off from dining out because of the ‘strange looks’ that are given to them by other customers.
“And it is a fact that some diners are disturbed when they see youngsters having outbursts or simply refusing to sit still.”
Andrew, who is pictured above with Josh, added: “There’s no doubt that raising an autistic child is a challenge. It’s not helped when people mistake such behaviour as being that of someone who appears just to be very naughty – and it’s not easy for parents to ignore the stares and comments of others when all eyes are on them.
“Admittedly, most people are more understanding and tolerant if the situation is explained to them, but an uncomfortable feeling can still remain.
“However, we believe there is no reason why families with learning difficulties should be excluded from such an enjoyable social experience as dining out.
“That’s why, on the first and third Friday of the month, from 5pm until 7 o’clock, starting on June 3, we will be providing an ‘early meal option’ for just such families.”
He added: “Cinemas and swimming baths already operate special sessions for those with learning difficulties. So why not a restaurant as well?”
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
Globally, it is estimated to affect 21.7 million people, while in the UK around 700,000 people suffer from the condition.